This entry on growing beets is a follow-up to yesterday’s post which was devoted to planting red beet roots and getting them off to a good start in the garden.
After the initial thinning you should continue thinning the plants throughout the season to maintain adequate space between the growing beet roots. Use the thinnings as baby beets and enjoy the beet greens in salads or cook them like spinach in your favorite recipes.
Many gardeners who grow beets fail to take advantage of the large quantities of beet greens which are tasty and very nutritious. Harvest a batch of the beet greens by picking a leaf or two from each plant without actually pulling the roots. You can repeat this process every week or two throughout the growing season.
The beet roots can be harvested at any size that you prefer. Some varieties are best harvested when small for gourmet “baby beets,” while other varieties can grow to enormous sizes with no loss of quality, tenderness, or flavor. If you’re interested in a delicious recipe for cooking fresh beets try baking them just as you would prepare a baked potato.
Growing beets is made easier by the fact that they aren’t prone to attacks from insects or diseases. Leaf miners occasionally invade the leaves, but don’t cause as much damage as they do to Swiss Chard, and the affected leaves can simply be removed. Black spots on the roots can be a sign of a mineral deficiency and indicate a need for soil improvement or organic fertilization.
Popular red beet varieties include Detroit Dark Red, Bull’s Blood, Cylindra, McGregor’s Favorite, Lutz Green Leaf, Early Wonder, and Ruby Queen. For a change of pace that will enliven the kitchen as well as the garden, try Burpee’s Golden, or the white roots of Albino Improved. There’s also an unusual beet called Chioggia that grows a red and white stripped interior.
Lutz Green Leaf, also known as Long Seasons is my personal favorite. They can be planted in early spring and will continue growing until the fall. The roots will reach enormous sizes, but remain sweet and tender.
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